A talented sportsman and successful student with an abundance of friends and a loving family, Feargal McCaughan had all to live for.
But his life was tragically cut short by meningitis — devastating his friends and family.
Now his heartbroken father, Brian McCaughan, has spoken for the first time about the disease that killed his eldest son and urged students in Northern Ireland to ensure they know the signs and symptoms of meningitis.
Unlike many of his peers, 18-year-old Feargal shunned alcohol and tobacco — choosing to put his health and fitness first.
Tributes to the Ballycastle teenager since his death reveal he was well liked, with an extensive social network and the tragedy has had a profound effect all those who knew him.
“We’re absolutely devastated, we’re in anguish and in hell,” said Brian McCaughan.
“This last week in particular has been particularly hard, the finality of it all, that Feargal is never coming back is absolutely destroying us.
“He had just had Fresher’s Week. He had a house with friends in Belfast near Queen’s. He arrived home on Friday evening and said he was not feeling the best.
“He didn’t really want to eat. He had been out every night for Fresher’s Week, was out until 5am or so and it threw us when he said he didn’t feel well. He had a bit of a sore throat but nothing worth going to the doctor about.”
“The night he came home, we sat about chatting about what he had been up to during the week and we suggested that we would all get an early night and catch up properly the following day. At about 10.30, my wife went in to check that he had taken some paracetamol and he was no worse.
“He was chatting away and we spoke to him about burning the candle at both ends and suggested he should take it easier. We found him dying at 8.30 the next morning.”
“I knew when I saw him we would never have him again. He was unconscious, he had the rash and it was very obvious.”
The McCaughan family has been left reeling by the speed at which Feargal died.
“It is very, very scary,” said Mr McCaughan. “He had none of the classic symptoms, the headache or anything like that.
Mr McCaughan continued: “Feargal was very into his sport. Hurling was his number one. He also played Gaelic football and soccer most weekends with his friends. He had been skiing and played tennis and golf.
“His two brothers and sisters are devastated, particularly his next brother, Eamonn, who was a year younger. They were on every sport team together, took part in everything together, slept in the same room together.
“It is very difficult for him. He has lost his best friend. Eamonn went out to the school formal last Thursday and Feargal was supposed to have been going as well.
“Every day is hard no matter where you are or what you are doing. I don’t really have a message except that people need get vaccinated and be aware of the symptoms of meningitis and get checked out immediately.”